Several weeks ago, New York City was the very epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the city's hospitals, personal protective equipment (PPE) was in high-demand and healthcare workers served patients around the clock. Amidst all of this, movements to donate medical supplies as well as to clap and cheer for doctors, nurses, and EMTs quickly caught on with the public.
The battle against COVID-19 isn't just about how many patients are required to isolate themselves, but it is also composed of stories about generosity, persistence, and support. As told by Ms. Baino who works at New York Presbyterian-Allen, these stories truly resonated with their staff.
1. How long have you been a nurse/doctor?
I've been a nurse for 21 years.
2. What department do you work in?
I work in the Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Unit.
3. What is your hospital's procedure with regard to COVID-19 patient care?
The same as patients with infectious diseases. We begin by testing the patient and put them in droplet and contact isolation until they are ruled out. No visitors were allowed initially in contrast as to right now, in which one visitor would be allowed to visit for at most 4 hours. These patients are placed in a singular room and are treated with strict infection protocol.
4. What is the protocol if you (or another nurse) shows signs of infection?
We were told beforehand that if we had COVID-19 symptoms, it was mandatory to stay home. Especially during flu season, staying home was always the protocol. If we felt symptoms at work, we would notify our supervisor who would then send us home or if the symptoms were severe, such as shortness of breath, send us to the emergency room. We would need to call the COVID hotline in which they would direct us to a testing center to get tested and quarantine us from the time we exhibited the symptoms. This would initially be seven days just for showing symptoms and at least two weeks for being positive. We were still paid without them extracting our benefits. Before we returned to work, we would have to be cleared by the Work Health and Safety Department.
5. Do you have enough PPE?
Currently, we have enough PPE. However, when the surge started we did run out of PPEs which was very concerning. We weren't exactly ready for this kind of event but thanks to the generosity of other contributors, we were able to fight this battle.
6. What is the biggest change your day-to-day has faced because of COVID-19?
Wearing masks from the parking lot going into the hospital until I sat back down in my car on the way back home! You did not see one person without a covering on their face! People simply going to the grocery store with gloves and masks on and those just going on a walk with protective gear was really a big change. It's become second nature almost. I couldn't leave the house without a mask and gloves even just to drop off food at my parent's house!
7. Describe your hospital's atmosphere
Currently, its calmer. It's not as tense as it used to be in the first few weeks of the outbreak. Of course, there's still an atmosphere of fear but not as intense as before. The nurses who were pulled out of the department came back to their regular job so there's no more chaos or confusion. Although the madness of the virus has died down a little, there are still precautions. They still want us to constantly have a mask on inside the hospital.
8. How do you feel about the national news coverage of COVID-19? Accurate? Downplaying the situation?
Reflecting back on the first few weeks of March where word of COVID-19 was spreading, I believe that the news downplayed it in some way. Because only cases were being reported from other countries outside of the US, not much alertness was being conveyed on the news. However, once the WHO classified it as a national pandemic, that was the only topic that was on their agenda. Statistics and reports of cases rapidly increasing would be displayed on the TV as well as help centers as soon as the first case in the US was reported. As a nurse located in one of the epicenters of the virus itself, its coverage was extremely accurate. The number of patients piled up and the environment of the hospitals quickly became severe, and I believe the news accurately portrayed that. With constant reminders of staying at home and wearing protective gear, the news stations did their job correctly and accurately.
9. What is one thing you wish you could tell the country about COVID-19?
We've been through a heap of struggles as a community, and overall as a nation. And each time we've come back again stronger and more knowledgeable. We should take this virus to better construct our lives and become aware of our personal health. Although going through this situation may have felt difficult and challenging at first hand, this is merely just an event that will better us as a whole. We've quickly worked together as one community to help each other, understanding our common struggles.
10. How is your personal life impacted by COVID-19?
I've spent most of my time at the hospital during this pandemic, but when I did have time for myself at home I still felt weary and stressed, not only physically but mentally overall from all of what I've seen. Spending time with my family at the end of the day was my source of comfort and resilience. I was more careful with my children in fear of giving them the virus. But having them around me broke the chain of despair that I was personally feeling. Although my kids are troublesome, that's a different kind of stress!
11. Are there any stories of hope that you can share with us?
There are many! One that stood out for me was one that all staff would do when a patient would be released after fighting against the virus. We would all stand against the wall cheering for each individual patient as "I Got a Feeling" would play on the overhead speakers. In contrast to the upsetting headlines most people would see on the news, it was really an uplifting and touching moment for all of us on both sides that we could overcome this pandemic together. Also, there were private medical and nonmedical companies and individuals that made a way to contribute PPEs for all of us at the hospital. We are extremely grateful and thankful for them as we didn't have to worry too much about running out of supplies. They've come forward themselves to help the community directly and it gave me new hope in humanity.
12. What advice can you give us for staying as healthy as possible?
Simply follow the guidelines! Physically and mentally, there are many things that one can do to help keep a healthy mind and body. Maintaining social distance, taking vitamins, wearing masks, and overall being cautious of our actions outside in public can all contribute to this healthy state that we all desire to be in, especially after a crisis such as this. On the other hand, I'd say that simply listening to music, spending time with loved ones, and just staying off the internet for some time could help keep a peaceful mind!
13. What can citizens in your area do to help healthcare workers fight COVID-19?
Follow CDC guidelines, the same thing! It would help minimize the spread, especially to avoid a new spike in cases. I believe the community has already given a lot of support to its citizens, especially in my town. They've taken care of those who are struggling to keep up with the aftermath of what the virus has brought, such as handing out bags of food and free masks for those who need new ones or just cannot afford. All we ask is to obey the rules that they are instilling in our community. They've created these rules for a reason and we should trust them for it!